The scars of school violence
By Claire Chuter, Johns Hopkins University
Schools are inherently social spaces. On the one hand, they can nurture a sense of belonging, and close, trusting relationships. On the other hand, the high incidence of violence in schools can encourage aggressive and antisocial behavior. In a recent review, Joshua Polanin and colleagues reviewed published and unpublished quantitative research reports of the longitudinal relation between a measure of school violence and a later mental health, school performance, or crime and delinquency outcome. Only studies that examined effects of school violence at 5 months or beyond were included.
The authors found that school violence has deleterious consequences for students for both perpetrators and victims (rp = 0.064, SE = 0.007, 95% CI[0.049, 0.078]). Breaking analyses down by form of involvement, perpetration of aggression significantly predicted negative mental health outcomes (rp = 0.054, SE = 0.024, 95% CI[0.005, 0.104]), negative school performance (rp = 0.063, SE = 0.020, 95% CI[0.020, 0.107]), and greater involvement in crime (rp = 0.110, SE = 0.022, 95% CI[0.063, 0.156]). However, being a victim of bullying (rp = 0.068, SE = 0.019, 95% CI[0.027, 0.108]) significantly predicted negative mental health outcomes.
One compelling takeaway from the results of this meta-analysis is that while victims suffer long-term mental health outcomes, school violence can result in more negative outcomes for the bully. In fact, no long-term associations between victimization and school performance or criminal behavior were observed. This review further supports the argument from the social-emotional learning contingent, that focusing on school belonging is a high priority, because its effects are far-reaching and persistent. The scars of school violence, particularly on the perpetrators, run deep.

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